From volcanic Mt Ruapehu on the North Island to the Remarkables mountain range in the south, New Zealand has a variety of easily accessible ski fields to suit all ages and abilities. Family-friendly runs on beginners’ slopes, heli-skiing, snowboarding down versatile terrain or back country alpine adventures on untouched virgin snow - New Zealand has it all.
New Zealand’s main ski regions include Mount Ruapehu, located on the North Island’s volcanic central plateau, Mt Hutt and Lake Tekapo in Canterbury, and Queenstown and Wanaka in the Southern Lakes region of the South Island.
These ski fields not only offer world-class slopes and facilities - a fact the sees some of the world’s biggest snow-sport stars and ski teams regularly using the Southern Alps mountain ranges as their personal training ground - but also plenty of après-ski action in the nearby resort towns.
For those who fancy a day off the slopes, there is plenty of off-piste action to entertain - lake cruises, jet boating, scenic rides, wilderness walks or cycling trips finished off with relaxing in a steaming hot pool before enjoying a glass of New Zealand’s world famous pinot noir in front of a crackling fire.
The New Zealand ski season is known for its length - offering snow enthusiasts plenty of time to enjoy the slopes. Ski areas open progressively from the first week of June and usually remain open until early to mid-October. Natural snow is augmented by snow making systems at most ski areas. Mother Nature shines on the slopes, with longer sunnier days in September and early October.
The ski season is complimented by a range of iconic New Zealand winter events. The beautiful alpine resort town of Queenstown plays host to two annual winter festivals - the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival and DNA Gay Ski week.
As always sport plays a major role in the New Zealand ski season event line-up. The Winter Games NZ are now an annual event, attracting some of the biggest names in world snow sports and providing spectacular on mountain action.
Mt Ruapehu - Whakapapa Ski Area
Located on the vast volcanic Central Plateau, and inside the majestic dual world heritage site of Tongariro National Park, Mt Ruapehu is the undisputable winter playground of New Zealand’s North Island. With two ski fields to choose from - Turoa and Whakapapa - Mt Ruapehu boasts New Zealand’s largest ski area.
Both fields offer a variety of terrain, catering from families through to experienced and extreme-sport loving snow enthusiasts that can be enjoyed in a unique New Zealand setting.
Whakapapa, located on Mt Ruapehu’s north-western slopes, is New Zealand’s biggest and busiest ski field with 550 hectares of ski slopes and another 400ha of lift-accessible terrain. It's also home to one of New Zealand's most spectacular on-mountain experiences, the Sky Waka gondola which transports skiers and spectactators 1.8 km to the Knoll Ridge Chalet at 2020m above sea level.
An ideal location for a family ski holiday, Whakapapa is home to Happy Valley - a dedicated children and learner’s area separated from the busier main slopes. More than 30 groomed trails and volcanic terrain gives intermediate skiers and boarders plenty of variety on Whakapapa. Those keen to take things to the next level can do so with 24 black and diamond runs and a lift-accessed Black Magic backcountry area.
On the south-western side of Ruapehu is Turoa - New Zealand’s highest ski area which boasts Australasia’s longest vertical drop and New Zealand's highest chairlift - The Highnoon Express. Alpine Meadow, at the base of Turoa Ski Area, is a great place for beginners. Extensive intermediate terrain includes 12 groomed runs, some linked for the long ride from top of the lift to the bottom of the base.
Like Whakapapa, Turoa offers incredible, lift-accessed backcountry snow with natural half-pipes and chutes. The Nga Wai Heke chairlift allows return access from the sweeping Triangle and Glacier Terrain areas.
Both ski areas offer ski and snowboarding hire and lessons, numerous cafes, bars and bistros to fuel hungry winter appetites. Turoa has childcare facilities.
Down off the mountain, the surrounding Ruapehu area offers plenty of other entertainment. Ohakune is a busy winter resort town with accommodation, bars, restaurants and entertainment close to the ski fields. Whakapapa Village and National Park Village are other close options.
For those wanting to stay further afield, Turangi, Taupo and Raetihi offer the chance to explore the central North Island region and enjoy a variety of activities - from white-water rafting and jet boating to cosy pubs, scenic strolls and natural thermal pools.